Terminally ill boy dies in Santa's arms

Eric J. Schmitt-Matzen / Facebook
Eric J. Schmitt-Matzen / Facebook

A terminally ill child in the US has died in the arms of Santa Claus, who granted the child his final wish.

Eric Shmitt-Matzen, a part-time Santa impersonator from Tennessee, was called by a nurse to ask if he could visit the dying five-year-old boy at his hospital bedside.

It was the boy's dying request to see Santa, and the hospital said it was urgent.

After arriving at the hospital, the boy's parents gave Mr Shmitt-Matzen a present to gift to their son, and then he entered the hospital room alone.

"I sized up the situation and told everyone, 'If you think you're going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I'll break down and can't do my job.'"

The boy was lying in his bed, weak and nearly asleep, but Mr Shmitt-Matzen said he brightened up when he was in the room.

"I sat down on his bed and asked, 'Say, what's this I hear about you're going to miss Christmas? There's no way you can miss Christmas - you're my number one elf!'"

The little boy looked back up at Santa, and asked: "I am?" Then he was given his gift.

"When he saw what was inside, he flashed a big smile and laid his head back down."

Mr Shmitt-Matzen said the next few moments made him question whether he could ever play the festive figure ever again.

"They say I'm going to die," the boy told Mr Schmitt-Matzen. "How can I tell when I get to where I'm going?"

"When you get there, you tell them you're Santa's number one elf, and I know they'll let you in," Mr Shmitt-Matzen replied.

The little boy just had one more question for Santa: "Can you help me?"

"I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there," Mr Schmitt-Matzen said. "He was in my arms when I felt him pass."

Mr Shmitt-Matzen said he kept hugging the boy then left the room when his parents came back in.

Despite being an army veteran, Mr Shmitt-Matzen said he cried the entire drive.

However, despite the harrowing experience, Mr Shmitt-Matzen says he now realises the gravity of the role and its importance for children.

"When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold," he said.

"It made me realise the role I have to play."